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How Peppa Pig became a video nightmare for children (theguardian.com)
175 points by pmoriarty on June 17, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 224 comments

Back in the day, before WikiPedia was even born I made a small website called "Adalyn". The website pretended to be a very curious girl that you could teach stuff. Everytime some term would be used it would ask you to explain that term, adding it to the list of definitions. And so on, it got quite clever within a week or so. Then the jerks discovered the site and within hours it was nothing but a huge perverted caricature of what it was intended to be.

The internet has - and will always have - a number of assholes whose only joy it is to make others miserable in whatever way they can. So from that day on I always design whatever I make with abuse in mind from day one. It still doesn't always work, but for the most part that seems to be the only reasonable way to put stuff together for public consumption.

It's frustrating, but it's reality.

> Then the jerks discovered the site and within hours it was nothing but a huge perverted caricature of what it was intended to be.

It was a lesson Microsoft learnt the hard way, a decade+ later with its AI twitter bot (Tay)[1]

1. https://www.theverge.com/2016/3/24/11297050/tay-microsoft-ch...

It almost makes you wonder if bot-programmers and their related marketing team have never seen a bathroom wall before... Anonymity paired with a publishing channel seem to bring out a certain kind of creativity...

An atemporal kind of creativity. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13976155

You might enjoy this video. It’s part humor and part technical discussion on how his talking “Banana” bot was brigades by users on Twitch in an effort to make him say racist words and phrases. After he got a strike on Twitch, he patched the software and then it got circumvented... terrific little video about the battle between him and his viewers and ultimately ends with his approach to sterilizing input so that the banana couldn’t speak anything harmful. I thought it was great.

* https://youtu.be/bJ5ppf0po3k

This was way more fascinating than I expected. I'm sad that he's turning down the banana. I absolutely understand why it's happening though. I'm hoping he shares the code some day.

That's an amazing video, thanks for linking it.

Especially the "fight" between GGX Gang and The Engineer to combat them.

Most bananas are sterile, it is reverting to type.

Add in the opportunity for profit and algorithms that can generate content, and you get a magic spiral of abusive and exploitative content that rewards the worst impulses.

Take YouTube’s recommendation system for starters

That's going to be their downfall, since its priority seems to be to connect people to the worst of the site as firmly as possible. A year or two ago I became curious about the flat earthers and watched 2 videos to try and figure out if there was any sort of deeper meaning to their superficially ridiculous claims (spoiler: there isn't). YT kept shoving flat earth videos at me for weeks like some sort of ontological crack dealer.

>I became curious about the flat earthers and watched 2 videos to try and figure out if there was any sort of deeper meaning to their superficially ridiculous claims (spoiler: there isn't)

Whether by design or accident the flat earth nonsense has the potential effect of unmooring people from the very notion of an accepted reality; and thus habituating them to the idea that what they inherently know about the world cannot be trusted. It literally pulls the world out from under their feet.

That is, if you can get people to believe or even question that something as fundamental as the shape of the earth is a lie they've been told, then you can effectively "clean-sheet" them. They become blank-canvases upon which you can write the alternative reality of your choice. Not to mention this type of nonsense generates mistrust in the status-quo, as it raises the question among its victims: "who is this 'they' who lied to us about such fundamental and important matters?"

So, if you then claim to be against the status quo, then you have sympathizers who are now open to your message. It thus becomes much easier to write your story onto their now blank canvases and serve as their champion.

I have a feeling it's just vulnerable people being selected, rather than this video having a general effect on people.

> flat earth nonsense has the potential effect of unmooring people from the very notion of an accepted reality

Religion has already done that.

The trend of "the Earth is flat" on the internet has nothing to do with people actually believing it or not. People aren't uneducated, they challenge the whole system. They challenge freedom of speech, censorships, fake news, education AND space travel in one sentence.

About 2 months ago I discovered Don Rickles and thought he was hilarious. So of course, I spent a couple of hours going down the Don Rickles YouTube hole. The next weekend I did the same for an hour or so. And in between I would occasionally show my wife a clip that was particularly funny. Then I stopped. I’ve had my fill.

But now, all I see recommended is Don Rickles. Literally the whole sidebar except 1 or 2 videos is Don Rickles even if I’m watching a tech video. Drives me nuts.

Did you try marking Don Rickles videos with "not interested"? I'm asking because it's very effective for me, YT even stops recommending videos with similar subjects.

You can 'delete' your youtube viewing history. https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/95725?hl=en

I assumed that the flat earth thing was supposed to be some elaborate troll / in-joke that I just didn't get. You're saying it isn't?

No. The more this stuff is out there, the more people are genuinely believing it. Check out this article from a couple of weeks ago: https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/looking-for-life-...

That didn't prove anything sufficient enough to answer a categorical "No". For most people, it points to the fact that knowing the shape of Earth is irrevelant and far away of their everyday problems. If it doesn't make any economical sense to say the "Earth is a sphere", then people can say what they like.

Great article, thanks

I have a family member that is a flat earther.

He's totally 100% serious. Not trolling; not joking.

He buys into a lot of conspiracy theories and he's a pretty paranoid person, in general. He also thinks some conspiracy theories are actually conspiracy theories.

Of course it is. One that's thousands of years old at least, a true classic.

Although this does nothing to solve the overall problem (which should not be understated!), you can personally not only delete specific videos in your view history but TURN OFF the logging of video views. See https://myactivity.google.com

If only we could get everyone to turn it off en masse.

Oh sure, I should have clarified that I'm not drowning in unwanted stuff but rather that it's interesting how YouTube tries to prioritize that content, presumably because of its normal stickiness.

Flat earthers are a lot less interesting or hard to understand than people realize.

Belief in a flat earth is a dog-whistle for fundamentalist Christians.

So yeah, they don't care about the fact that we can observe the Earth is round or any other proof, their ignorance is proof of their faith.

That's far too simplistic. Naive people with no bias to start with can and do go down bizarre YouTube rabbit-holes and end up becoming flat-earthers or something else crazy.

In fact, most of today's flat-earthers seem to be primarily driven by the arguments from flat-earth claims and nothing more: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/may/27/is-the-earth-...

I believe there is a technical solution to this that does not involve sanitizing the whole Internet to the level of broadcast TV (good luck with that).

A "Child mode" flag would be set system wide when the device is configured by the parent to be used by a child. This should enforce a top down policy that only allows installing child safe apps or apps that propagate and enforce a similar policy. For example, Chrome would be installed but would only allow access to sites that respect the child safe flag. Youtube would load but only run videos and suggestions form a carefully curated set of publishers that respect the age. Etcetera.

Compared with previous approaches that failed due to lack of adoption (RASCi, ICRA) this system would provide a strong incentive for app and site owners to properly support the age flag, else they are simply invisible in the children market. A strong initial effort would be required from Google/Microsoft to bootstrap the initial whitelists.

This approach is contrary to youtube’s Business model. They’d rather just block kids. Which makes kids (and parents) just pretend to be 18.

Goog just needs to give up and partner with pbs or something to make kids videos a charity.

There already is a YouTube Kids that has a similar set of features.


This tool claims to have those features, but does not. The article covers this.

It’s actually kind of worse, because it lulls parents into thinking it’s safe. And it’s even harder to police since adults never use it and the UI is different than the YouTube parents expect.

Yes. We found our two year old had found some pretty...strange YouTube Kids videos on her iPad, so we nuked YT Kids and only gave them PBS/Sesame Street.

And the "weird" videos from the article seem to still exist there too, the way I understand the article (I haven't checked myself, it was disturbing experience the last time).

I've tried it, and found it to be worthless.

The problem isn't technical at all. In fact, the problem stems from trying to use technology to replace humans. The problem comes because the thing that your entire proposal rests on, curation, isn't being done.

That's my point: don't try to do content curation, pass it down to the next level. A limited number of manually vetted publishers should have access to the kids sections, and that access should be a very valuable asset which they lose when publishing bad content; as opposed to a burner Youtube account anyone can setup in minutes.

Fine, lets say Google does that.

Then they're blamed for allowing a media oligopoly form, whilst ignoring small content producers. We're seeing this play out with the demonitazation of popular vid creators.

Long story short, with the public, damned if you, and damned if you don't.

Nobody would complain if Youtube offered a curated channel with guaranteed kid safe videos. If I type "Peppa Pig", I want the official genuine Peppa Pig, not some stupid knockoff.

The problem is that Youtube wants to show you an endless stream of content, and they never ever want to show you an empty search result.

So they show you sketchy videos uploaded by bots with no quality control, and their stupid algorithms somehow manage to always put the fake stuff next to the real stuff.

And to make it clear: Nobody is requesting that Google should block questionable videos. They just shouldn't shove them in your face like they do now.

To make it clear: People are very much requesting that Google block questionable videos on their Kids app.

There is a difference between not including something in a curated channel (like the youtube kids app) and blocking it.

Exactly. You see the same thing happen in every other spot on the internet where users contribute content, and only an algorithm controls what dies, what lives, and what gets rewarded. See also: the huge counterfeit goods problem on Amazon, review system gaming on Yelp, spam in almost any unmoderated online forum, etc.

This isn’t going to be solved with better algorithms or machine learning. The bad actors also have computing resources. I think it can only be solved by human curation.

I have to disagree, not because you're wrong, but because I am jaded. I think it will be solved by better algorithms and machine learning after it gets worse for a very long time. If there is a temporary replacement of algorithms with human curation the scale of the economic incentive to replace those workers is vast. An institution like Google or Amazon cannot look at a huge, low-skill workforce and not actively wonder how to replace them. I lived this personally as I was briefly an adwords editor. I was one of a huge cadre of BA's employed to enforce complex and messy rules about text ads. Simultaneously, embedded engineers watched us so they could better craft algorithmic replacements. Eventually they did.

That experience was a non-zero factor in my transition into a technical career. Big companies will automate anything they can and being on the automation side rather than the automated seems like the better idea.

As automation gets better, do you think the bad actors are just going to shrug, say “well that was good while it lasted” and give up? Their automation will keep improving too. I’d argue that the spammers’ algorithms will always be better than their targets’ because their effort directly impacts their bottom line, whereas their targets’ anti spam efforts have to only catch enough to avoid turning their legit audience away.

The same problems apply to email spam. It was bad for a long, long time but now it's a largely solved problem if you use (say) Gmail.

Isn't that because most of the spam centers simply get blocked?

It's instructive to view Hacker News' own "new" page with "showdead" set. The torrent of spam is astounding. There seems to be absolutely nothing online that people aren't intent on ruining.

This times a thousand. The problems we're seeing with social media sites and trolling, spam, harassment, low quality content, fake reviews, etc is because they're operating at a scale where human moderators are too expensive to use and stuck trying to use algorithms to solve human problems.

But that doesn't work. Until we have true human level AI (and honestly maybe not even then), decent curation has to be done by humans rather than machines. That's why forums tend to be less 'toxic' than Twitter or Facebook, because the moderators can view content and use their personal disgression while figuring out whether something breaks the rules and then act accordingly. It's why (somewhat surprisingly), the likes of SMW Central and MFGG have better quality control standards than Steam, the App store or other such services; because the moderators physically play through every game submitted and determine whether they're good enough to be accepted. It's why Amazon has an issue with counterfeit products nowadays, and why Google search has spam and blackhat SEO.

And it's not just humans that are needed for good moderation or curation either. It's humans with knowledge/experience in the field in question, and with enough interest to go all in on their work to make the community better. Those 'moderation sweatshops' some social media services use (the ones that check for illegal content and what not by getting a bunch of low wage workers to scan through content en mass) are as flawed an idea as the algorithms; they don't know what's acceptable beyond the very minimum.

But I guess that's the issue with many businesses and services and startups now. Everyone's trying to solve human problems with only code, and realising it (at least for the time being) just often doesn't work that well.

> Youtube would load but only run videos and suggestions form a carefully curated set of publishers that respect the age.

Isn't Youtubes whole schtick that they don't want to do any curation, but instead want to just turn the algorithms loose on the firehose of data that's being uploaded and recommend whatever the algorithm spits out? Pivoting to human curation from there sounds like a really difficult task for them.

They do SOME curation. I just need a flag that lets me filter out the 99.9% that isn't curated.

It's either that or I won't use Youtube (or rather, my kids won't). So it's definitely in their interest to curate.

They could whitelist a large number of content providers, and just rely on their judgement for this curated platform.

This could work; whitelisting is a far better and easier approach to trying to weed out "bad" stuff.

By far the best idea I've ever heard was the creation of a .kids TLD that would be essentially what you described. I believe there was a proposal for that that went nowhere.

The problem is who moderates it?

Social mores are dramatically different in different places. What if all content was required to meet Saudi Arabia's regressive social moores? Or the disconnect between the US when it comes to nudity and violence?

A moderated community can work, but it has to be much, much more granular, and the effort to achieve that kind of granularity is basically not feasable from an economic standpoint.

There are various voluntary ratings associations in existence, focused on their own version of "acceptable."

Commonsensemedia is a good example, they have a US-centric Christian bent that doesn't agree with my own, but for the most part their information about movies and TV for kids is useful to me when deciding what to show my kids.

So there seems to be a treasure trove of voluntarily produced data on content by various groups on one side, and a desire to automate applying those ratings to my kids in a default whitelist then allow-by-exception model.

If it were technologically possible, I'd even be thrilled to have a default whitelist created by the parents who are my Facebook contacts. We do that manually today. "Hey, have you seen The Incredibles? Is it too scary for my three year old?"

Anything that allowed parents to do that, and that worked in a widespread way, would be adopted immediately and would probably be worth a subscription fee.

Google Family Link does exactly this. App installs require parental approval and browsing is filtered.

except, YouTube Kids already exists, and the whole point of the NYT article was that it's not working.

Because it wasn't made the way the parent suggests, but relied on algorithms trying to identify appropriate content and after-the-fact moderation in case of complaints.

As a parent of a young child, what I want is a very limited list of videos; not the vast wastes of content that is YouTube.

Marble run videos ok. Crazy Russian science guy, mostly ok, as long as it's not too pyromaniac or alcohol. Thoughtful Minecraft videos ok, annoying kids playing terrible games and freaking out about nothing, no thanks.

YouTube kids was totally worthless. Either you turn off search and only see featured videos which nobody wants to watch, or you enable search and basically everything is there, because it only blocks a few categories.

It was My Little Pony for my daughter.

That was the day we learned about "trolls" on the internet.

I wish this were a better world and that this was unnecessary but in retrospect it was a sweet bonding moment we still laugh about years later.

Kids are resilient as long as you are there to help them make sense of it. And you have too. The internet and it's trolls aren't going anywhere. In the end, goatse comes for us all...

I think you mean Gabriella Goat[1].

1. http://peppapig.wikia.com/wiki/Gabriella_Goat

Champ he really, really doesn’t.

Oh dear god why!!!!!!


I think someone just experienced the 8 stages...


Step 1. Delete YouTube or YouTube Kids

Step 2. Install PBS Kids and Duck Duck Moose

Do not let any un-curated automagic near kids. Its not worth the headache!

I say this as someone who is not a parent, but it amazes me the things parents let their kids do. I cringe when I see my siblings give their kids their $600 phones to play with when they're still in the age where "throw something on the floor and make an adult pick it up" is the most fun game you can play.

But that's just a piece of property... just putting on YouTube and letting kids explore the Internet has potential to be far worse. I know the fucked up things I saw on the Internet as a kid, and I know it hasn't gotten any better since then. YouTube is not a safe space and it blows my mind that otherwise responsible adults treat it as such.

Again I'm not a parent so maybe I can't understand it through that lens, but from an outsider's view it's awful. There's just so many hours of misery on YouTube that even adults don't need to see.

100% agree with you. The problem is not just that parents are setting their kids in front of a wide open medium filled with abusive content, it's that they're letting their kids watch hours upon hours of mindless entertainment in the first place.

I realize this is kind of a third rail at the moment, but hear me out. The fact is that parents got by for thousands of years without having electronic child sitting devices. The time children waste on glowing screens could be more productively spent learning (remember books?), socializing with their peers, or enjoying healthy exercise. If a child absolutely has to have an hour a day in front of a screen, at the least give them something worthwhile like Mr. Rogers' reruns to watch. Who knows what the long term effects of 3 hours of the same nursery rhyme a day will have on their mental health. At the very least I think extreme caution is warranted; it's easier to let the screens do the baby-sitting, but raising a kid has never been easy.

I say this with absolutely zero judgement on the parents, but back then parenting was a full time job, and no one parented alone. These days parents want to keep their existing work and social schedule, and again I say this with zero judgement, they bring their kids into social situations that previous generations of parents maybe wouldn't have. To maintain the appropriate social atmosphere, virtually sedating the kids might be necessary. It's like an off-switch, or a babysitter that only costs $8.99/mo.

And then, this time with a little bit of judgement on the parents, I see kids at sports games watching Netflix, or I hear my sister talking about her kids watching YouTube with headphones in the car on a roadtrip, and I think, maybe the kids should be learning the value of the experience they're missing instead of disappearing into a fantasy world before boredom has any chance. Netflix and YouTube might be just a little bit too easy of a solution.

> These days parents want to keep their existing work

I would say for most it's more like "these parents have to keep their existing work", given how housing costs have increased far faster than lower-class and lower-middle-class wages. Being a stay-at-home parent isn't really a viable choice if you need two incomes to afford a place to live.

> I see kids at sports games watching Netflix, or I hear my sister talking about her kids watching YouTube with headphones in the car on a roadtrip

Would you react the same if it was a book instead?

>Would you react the same if it was a book instead?

Yes. It's an experience that is meant to be actually experienced, not ignored for fantasy. Sports is entertainment already, if you're distracting yourself from a distraction you paid to be at, you should have stayed at home.

Likewise on a road trip, there is so much other social activity you can do without putting children in a fantasy bubble. At least with a book, though, you can engage the kid or have them read aloud to you.

The thing I'm worried about is these kids growing up to be very maladjusted adults. They are being trained to completely tune out all external stimulus, that really can't be healthy.

Not only that but a little boredom is good for children; it fosters creativity.

Here's an idea, don't give impressionable young children unrestricted internet access if you're worried about this kind of stuff.

My partner and I did this a few years ago. Our kids ranged from 5-10. It wasn’t that big of a deal but the social pressure has risen more and more each year due to advertising “watch on YouTube,” classmates having YouTube, elementary schools requiring YouTube projects, complaints that other parents allow and such.

But the strangest thing is the reaction from friends who have kids the same age that we’re being prudes or technophiles. I shared a few of these articles with a friend whose 9 year old had a YouTube channel with a few cute videos but spends about 4-6 hours per day watching. They denied the author. Screen caps showed videos like the ones referenced in the right list and recommended and they still said it wasn’t a big deal.

Really weird reaction from people I know well.

Makes me wonder if I’m getting all Tipper Gore in my old age and this is the new form of heavy metal panic.

>Makes me wonder if I’m getting all Tipper Gore in my old age and this is the new form of heavy metal panic.

In general, I don't think so. There's a pretty clear value proposition in things like heavy metal, D&D, and similar Tipper Gore-esque hysterias. There's really not much value in these things - algorithmically generated random content that is designed to trigger the same response over and over again.

But maybe a little on the 9 year old. I think the biggest fear here is the impact it has on really young children, and kids that are likely to get sucked into this are probably closer to the <5-6 year old range. At 9 the kid should have a much better understanding of reality and how the world works, and should be less likely to get sucked into watching these for any great length of time. They're also less likely to come away from it with their view of reality being impacted - they can see and parse what actually goes on well enough to know this shit is super weird.

I think for older children it's something to be aware of, and if you see it impacting their behavior, then certainly, take steps to handle it. And I imagine that some amount of older kids are going to react negatively to it as well.

Yeah there is a generational gap that largely doesn't connect with me as a non-parent and somebody who didn't have internet until adolescence, and there was no youtube etc back then. I just will always generally scoff at calls for more censorship, "curation" etc on what is basically a large public medium of expression on account of "concern for the children", to me kids are the parents responsibility.

Let's not forget that television is a broadcast medium. It only goes one way.

YouTube is bidirectional-- your kids can engage with their favorite YouTube stars, with or without your knowledge.


>Makes me wonder if I’m getting all Tipper Gore in my old age

Remember that brands were so insidious in their marketing to children during saturday morning cartoons in the 70s that the FCC mandated a more clear separation between what was a cartoon and what was a commercial. Cartoons are fine, advertising is fine, but blurring that line went too far and parents had a hard time saying no once their kids were sold something they thought was a cartoon.

Different situation today, but same outcome. Parents have a hard time saying no to their kids, and then to justify their decision and make it seem okay, they shame you for not making the same choices they did, until eventually every kid is watching characters from My Little Pony kill each other and think it's a cartoon, and then the feds have to step in and regulate it.

My wife and I have been putting off having kids because the peer pressure and judgement we see from parents is just so damn ridiculous.

> Youtube would load but only run videos and suggestions form a carefully curated set of publishers that respect the age.

I suspect they're deep, deep down in a pit of denial because to admit that this is a problem would be an existential threat to them and their way of parenting.

Yeah! And here's another idea: publicly complain about and discuss PUBLIC issues that are systematic and affect the whole society, not just you.

Unless you want to keep your kids in totally isolated bubbles, they live in the world. If the rest of the neighborhood kids or classmates are watching certain things, then you can't keep your kids from exposure and social pressure etc.

Issues are on a continuum from totally private, isolated concerns to broader social ones. Social problems require social solutions.

But yes, impressionable young children shouldn't get unrestricted internet access. And also we can and should criticize anyone profiting off of systems that are causing harm.

That's easy enough. It's finding the right restrictions that are hard. That's the whole point of the article above, it's not a bad read.

Not sure why you’re being downvoted. It’s definitely possible to just not let your kids use YouTube unsupervised.. or curate content for them.

Because it's a non-solution to a well-defined problem that just dumps the externality onto the consumer. Like telling people who are complaining about pollution that they shouldn't live near factories.

Like telling people who are complaining about cavities to brush their teeth more like it.

I wish you had picked an example less fraught with flamewar potential, as this one has the sugar industry and water fluoridation firmly attached.

People complaining about cavities should stop eating so much sugar. Brushing their teeth is only a band-aid and doesn’t attack the core problem.

And yeah, that means they should probably stop eating processed food with added sugar. Which means they should avoid most of the shelves in the supermarket.

It’s a serious problem which goes far beyond personal responsibility. Our whole industrial food system is designed to deliver as much teeth-rotting food [as a bonus, also causes diabetes and heart disease and obesity] to as many consumers as cheaply as possible, while convincing those consumers that there’s nothing wrong. Not only that, we subsidize it heavily using our collective tax money.

Dump the responsibility of parenting onto the parents?


have you tried to block kids from YouTube? It's just about impossible. You can completely firewall it off from your home network, block the app, etc, and they'll just go to the library. School. pretty much anywhere. or just grab a friends device that has no such restrictions.

kids vs no kids is a massive divide in perspective and concerns

Did I say I didn’t have kids?

Letting a child wander around the Internet without adult supervision is something akin to child neglect. Way too much clickbait, way too much malevolent content.

Its easy to blame the parents but the problem is some of these shock videos are designed to look like innocent kids videos (eg a Peppa Pig clip) and it's not until the "shock" part has already happened that even the adult is aware of the true nature of the content.

Sure, there are some which are easily identified by the title or an obviously unofficial animation style, but if all of them were like that then I suspect YouTube would have had an easier job training their AI to detect and remove such content.

Watching Peppa Pig on youtube is pirating anyway so it should not be that hard to remove.

And it's very easy to blame the parents, since it is their responsibility. I don't let my kids watch youtube at all.

Most people neither understand nor care to learn copyright law, nor would most bother to reason “x content would only be here unlawfully, therefore I should not watch it here because it’s either a threat to me or to the content creator”.

For example, search for the strictly inaccurate phrase “copyright not intended” on YouTube and observe the type of result.

There is also a lot of good original content made for YouTube as well like nursery rhymes. Some of which are better than the rubbish on "regular" TV.

So it's not really worth getting to hung up about copyright law in the context of this discussion as I could easily just replace "Peppa Pig" with "Kids Nursery Rhymes" and still make the same point.

Maybe the lesson here is that content creators for children should leave YouTube and find a more kid-friendly alternative. I imagine the day where a family-friendly brand sees these abusive videos being recommended in the same playlist as them and decides to pull all of their content.

There may be great content on YouTube, but that content could go anywhere. Is there maybe a market for a YouTube where a human reviews the content that gets posted and guarantees it is family-friendly?

I enjoy a lot of such content. My point is that almost nobody cares enough to know enough that they are even capable of being hung up about copyright law, any more than they care enough to learn enough to be hung up about which medicines are affordable in foreign countries. It just isn’t something normal people do.

Yes I got that the first time. You didn't need to re-explain your point because I was adding a complimentary argument rather than contradictory.

3 year olds don't understand copyright law and frankly I'm not about to try and explain it to them when I'm sat in a restaurant or queuing to get his hair cut. If watching something on YouTube (on my phone with the sound muted) pacifies my kids which make everyone's experience more tolerable then I wouldn't class that as bad parenting. But I guess the problem with appeasing judgemental individuals is you're damned whatever you do. However for what it's worth, almost everything we watch on YouTube with the kids we do also have on DVD.

I talk to my 3 year old while we're waiting for a haircut. Or I'll go for a walk with him, or play. Same as with the 6 year old.

I don't understand why some parents find electronic gizmos so essential for day to day activities.

Clearly I talk and play with my son as well (its a bit difficult talking someone for a walk when you're waiting in line for something or sat at a restaurant but maybe that's an American / UK cultural thing). I also occasionally fall back to electronic gizmos when my kids get so bored and disruptive that all of the aforementioned fails to keep them entertained. Because, if you really had kids you'd understand just how impossibly hard it can be to ask a 3 year old to have the patience of an adult ;)

But thanks for the patronising tone bud. Just because someone admits to playing YouTube to their son once in a while it doesn't mean they don't still spend nearly every waking moment at home interacting with them. Just like how feeding them fries occasionally is completely fine if their usual diet is healthy.

I do really have kids, one 3, one 6, only had to resort to electronic pacifiers on long haul flights, but ymmv, I just don't understand it.

The reason I said go for a walk was that's exactly what I did last time we took the kids to get their haircut - asked them how long it would be, they said 15 minutes, so we went for a walk for 10 minutes

> I do really have kids, one 3, one 6, only had to resort to electronic pacifiers on long haul flights, but ymmv, I just don't understand it.

Its ironic you make that confession after judging me for saying something similar - particularly when I don't tend to give my kids electronic devices on long journeys instead favouring conversation (like you suggested I should be doing anyway). Which just goes to show that you don't have to understand how other families work, you just have to accept that it does work for them and not pass judgement like you had done.

> The reason I said go for a walk was that's exactly what I did last time we took the kids to get their haircut - asked them how long it would be, they said 15 minutes, so we went for a walk for 10 minutes

Honestly, I genuinely find it quite rude when people do that as you lose all sense of how many people are before you and when you'd be up next. I'd rather teach my kids to wait patiently than have them think it is ok to leave and rejoin a queue whenever they get board. But as I said, that might be a cultural difference.

> Honestly, I genuinely find it quite rude when people do that as you lose all sense of how many people are before you and when you'd be up next.

This is ridiculous, you can simply go ask how many people are ahead of you if you want to know your place in the queue, which is the proper way to do it.

Never in all my years of going to the barbers have I ever known anyone do what you've just described in the UK; and if it does happen, then it's certainly not custom in any of the towns I have lived in.

Sometimes people do disappear when it is extremely busy but when they come back (typically an hour or two later) they expect to join the back of the queue. Literally the only time I've seen anyone leave queue and rejoined it where they left was when they were there with their larger family and one of the kids urgently needed the toilet. And even then I've only seen that happen once in the decades (literally!) I've been frequenting barbers.

You can use all of the patronising terms you like to promote your preferred etiquette but if it's not shared with the rest of community then your method simply isn't the "proper way to do it".

How is it any different from calling in to make an appointment for a specific time and then walking in when it’s your time and getting seated immediately?

The only difference here is you make the appointment in person.

I can't believe I actually have to explain this, but the difference is you're going to a barbers that don't take appointments and expecting them to honour one. If you want that kind of service then you go to a barbers that offer appointments.

It's really not a hard concept to grasp but after reading your other comment about how you love to talk confidently about subjects you no nothing about, I'm starting to question if this is one of those subjects. Perhaps you don't even have kids at all and this is just another one of your attempts at trolling which you also described enjoying.

In any case, the real crux of the matter isn't what you consider logical but rather what the generally agreed social etiquette is. So you can argue until you're blue in the face but if it's not how barbers currently work then that simply isn't how barbers currently work. Period.

I never said I had children, don’t know how that’s relevant to this particular line of thread. I’ve also never known a barber that didn’t take an appointment.

We’ll just have to end it here.

> I never said I had children, don’t know how that’s relevant to this particular line of thread.

It's relevent because this topic is about parenting and kids waiting in line for stuff like barbers.

> I've also never known a barber that didn’t take an appointment.

As I've repeatedly said, this might be a cultural thing. Most UK barbers in UK towns don't take appointments. Trendy ones in the big cities might well do, but in terms of your typical UK barbers shop you would just turn up and wait in line. So to that effect, I've also never known a barber that does take an appointment.

> We’ll just have to end it here.

For what it's worth, I did try to end this tangent several times already when I compromised with "it might be a cultural thing". Which, weirdly, is when you decided to rejoin the discussion. Go figure.

I think he means the parent should recognize that it's pirated. But regardless, there's a simple feedback loop that surely works to solve this problem. If you personally find your kids watching something you don't want them to, then you're going to stop letting them watch it. If you don't mind, then you might carry on. In either case, they watch what you approve and there's no problem.

You're just reiterating the original point that started this fork. While i agree with you that any responsible parent would do as you described, some of these shock videos aren't obviously shock videos until after the shock event has already happened. This in fact happened to a good friend of mine who is a very responsible parent however right at the end of a cartoon there was a loud scream with a guy wearing a zombie mask. I'm sure it was done as a laugh but it took my friends kid a couple of years to get over it. Before that event happened neither he nor I had ever heard of these kinds of pranks on YouTube before. Just as most other parents wouldn't have.

Sure you could blame the parents complacency or whatever but where do you draw the line? What happens if someone causes a scene that scares my kid when we are at a restaurant? Or walking him to school? You can't predicte the actions of every arsehole in communal spaces so blaming this stuff on the parents is more than a little unfair then society owes a little responsibility for its own actions as well.

But as I also said before, if these shock videos were just bad knock offs etc that a quick watch when the kids aren't around highlights their content, then I suspect YouTube would have found it easier to train their AI. The problem is some of those videos even get past parent moderation as well (such as the one I described above) and thus don't become apparent as a shock video until the damage has already been done.

The original post was saying parents should work out what's OK in advance. I realize that's very hard but that if you get it wrong, you'll adapt your behavior so it won't be an ongoing problem. Just like if your kid gets treated badly at a restaurant, you might not go there again. I'm not blaming the parent, just pointing out that it's a self-correcting problem so really nobody needs to be blamed.

Where it doesn't work is cases like your friend where a single unexpected event can cause a lot of harm. But most of these videos aren't that, they're just mildly "disturbing". If anything, they're a good warning that worse things might be coming.

What is mildly disturbing to you and I can be traumatic to little kids. Plus the videos described in that article sound a lot more disturbing than the one my friend fell victim to.

And I don't believe no one should be blamed. I believe the blame lies heavily with the uploaders of those videos because they're deliberately releasing content that they know isn't suitable for children in a way that is intended to lure children into watching it. Sure there will be instances where the parents are also at fault for not overseeing what their kids watch. I'm not in anyway trying to shift responsibility away from the parents. However while I'm one of the biggest advocates for free speech and all that jazz, ultimately if you're creating content that you know is inappropriate for children then you should not be targeting children with said content. Period.

Oh, well yes OK. I wasn't thinking of the creators of the content as human beings available to be blamed because they're so anonymous and unreachable. While morally, they might be the right target of blame, blaming them seems to be about as ineffective as blaming a cat for upsetting your kids by dying in the street where they walk. Other commenters seem to be aiming their criticism at either YouTube or parents, probably because those are more available and softer targets.

At the risk of being wildly misunderstood:

My kids got help to find kid-friendly things but were essentially free to do pretty much as they pleased online. They were given two tongue-in-cheek guidelines: No porn and no learning how to make bombs.

I think the key is to assume they are good kids who need some help finding what interests them, not bad kids who need a parent jail keeper preventing them from doing bad things.

Having said that, I was fortunate to be stationed in Germany when they were really little with access to only one American TV channel. I had lots of videos for them, not to control content but to give them entertainment. Still, content control was largely baked into the situation.

So I am somewhat self conscious that what worked back in the day may not work now and other disclaimers.

Edit: I will also add that when they were little, we had one computer in a public space. Individual computers in private spaces came much later.

Agreed. Except it is extremely common for parents to let their kids watch YouTube unsupervised (and when I mention the problems they don’t want to hear it; “nah it’s fine, they won’t click weird stuff...”), so this does beg the question whether YouTube should be responsible too (I think they should). That said, YouTube is banned in our house because of this and Netflix is way superior anyway.

I think there is a level of undo trust to apps called youtube for kids. It sure gives the impression that its filtered and curated.

Title aside that’s a fair point. One wrong click can lead to months of nightmares for a young child.

Is not an age when adult supervision is harmful as a violation of child's rights for privacy lower than age when such content is harmful?

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

Good one.

This is odd to hear since that "free roam" idea of letting them wander for miles unsupervised is all the rage on here. I'd say that's much more reckless than letting them use the internet. Unsupervised computer use at a young age was nothing but a positive for me, yet being left unsupervised with an irresponsible neighbor's dumb kids left me with a crushed wrist and internal bruising from a bicycle accident and the beginning of lifelong weight problems from the subsequent aversion to such activity.

> This is odd to hear since that "free roam" idea of letting them wander for miles unsupervised is all the rage on here. I'd say that's much more reckless than letting them use the internet.

I wouldn't. The real world has laws and rules, and people to enforce them. The internet (in all practical situations) is lawless and completly unpoliced.

That's not inherently a bad thing (I like having an open internet). But it's not something I'd ever expose a child to.

I'd easily let my own child wander the neighborhood unsupervised, long before I'll let my child wander the open internet unsupervised.

I don't know how old you are, but the internet (and before that, BBSs) used to be a much more friendly place than it is today. When I was in high school circa 1996-8, my parents would drop me off to meet random people I had met online, and it was totally no big deal. Nowadays I can't imagine anyone doing that -- the dark corners of the internet have gotten a lot darker over the years.

I had similar experiences. Though I did find out later that one of the people I met on BBSs had some history of child porn or sex abuse and met lots of teenage boys that way. He later went to prison for molesting another one. It might be more that parents were more tolerant of risks than that things were safer. Cars didn't have airbags either.

I think there just wasn't a lot of awareness about it. Some of the people hanging around in the early chats were also pretty creepy, but noone thought it was a big deal. I remember that we did talk about this in school, but we just found it funny that an old guy might pretend to be a little girl in chat, it wasn't something anyone was really worried about.

Your unsupervised computer use when you were young is probably nothing like the “computer use” kids have today. Kids today consume too much and produce far too little.

I too was unsupervised. As a child I used to troll forums, which is like the white collar equivalent of being a troubled youth who joins a gang. But it taught me better reading comprehension, and how to type faster, how to write in different tones of voice, how to imagine other people’s point of view, how to figure out what they care about and what makes them mad, and how to sound credible when I’m clueless.

When I grew out of trolling, these skills continued to serve value to me throughout my life.

Skills like this only develop when a child’s usage of the internet is at least equal parts consumption and production.

After about 2 months of endless “Johnny Johnny” and “Finger Family” videos which were bad enough, a video came up that used the MF word. My wife reacted appropriately and just deleted the YouTube app. Problem solved, no chance encounters with the bad content and more sanity for mom and dad. In retrospect I wish we would have done it sooner.

Engineering problem aside: Stop and think about this for a second. YouTube is hosting videos designed for child abuse and doing nothing about it.

How are creepy cartoons (aka horror movies) anywhere near "child abuse"?

Not saying the cartoons are right or appropriate, but they're not child abuse unless actual children are molested while producing them (which I don't see how considering it's all computer-generated graphics).

Child abuse doesn't have to be physical.

I can tell a child "Ill come take your family and cut them in tiny pieces", and that's clearly child abuse.

Or I can show peppa pig raping elsa, and then bashing her brains out... There's nobody that would think that's normal to show children. And again, child abuse.

Abuse can be physical _or_ emotional.

You might be applying your well developed adult sense of how horrifying various images are supposed to be to kids who haven't learnt that yet. Here are examples showing that it's not as bad as it sounds. Discovery channels shows animals effectively raping each other. For many species, sex is not consensual but is determined by physical strength. The popular Road Runner cartoon had plenty brains being bashed out. When I was a kid, I had a book that showed people having their heads cut off. Not even cartoon people but real people. It was called "Encyclopedia Britannica" and the article was about the French Revolution. So actually most people think that's OK and kids might not be as fragile as you imagine.

I think you need to go to YouTube and actually watch some of those. They are way, way darker than animals eating each other.

EDIT: a few samples here https://www.reddit.com/r/ElsaGate/comments/6o6baf/what_is_el...

Someone check this guy's browser history

The article did nothing to explain the motivation for making sick videos instead of bland knockoffs. I know my grandchildren will watch anything. Surely a sick video won't gather more views than a bland one.

Maybe the number that are sick is small and not typical.

I actually think children would be more likely to select an abusive video to watch than a bland one.

Child psychology is incredibly complex, and I am nowhere near an expert, but out of anecdotal experience, children are both terrified and fascinated by their fears. There is an almost obsessive tendency that comes from a minor trauma: for example, a child being startled by a vacuum might then cry every time he sees a vacuum, and ask to see the vacuum.

Note that I don’t think this absolves parents or anyone at YouTube. I think they are both morally obligated to protect children from videos such as this.

Surely a sick video won't gather more views than a bland one.

Of course it will. That's why there's a market for horror movies, but there's no real market for avowedly dull movies.

There are thousands upon thousands of them (though many have been recently removed). Especially the 3D ones. And they have staggering view counts in the hundreds of millions, due to the compounding effect of quantity, shock factor and recommendation algorithms.

Ford is creating vans for paedophiles to abuse kids in and do nothing about it! Home Depot is selling construction materials for paedophiles to build basements to abuse kids!

This works with many companies.

I think the issue the author is making is not that such videos exist and are hosted on YouTube, but that YouTube has created a system which promotes abusive videos.

When children watch videos on YouTube, they pick another video to watch. Children are driven by known characters, and an innate curiosity about their fears, so the next video they select will be an traumatic video. YouTube’s algorithm is then trained to prioritize abusive videos. Creators (yuck) then create more abusive videos to match the algorithm, and thereby get more views.

Technically, the system is working as intended. Given a list of videos, children would prefer to select one that has their favorite characters and deep seated fears. So more videos like that get produced.

Yes, children should not watch YouTube unsupervised, and people should not be allowed to upload videos that traumatize children. However, both of those things are happening, and in the middle of it, YouTube is effectively promoting child abuse.

A better analogy would be “Ford creates program for child abducters to better find vulnerable children.”

Ford doesn't sell vans pre-painted with "Free Candy" on the outside. YouTube does package abusive videos as "kid friendly".

What an extremely weak argument: the children videos depicting violence are themselves abusive. Neither Ford nor Home Depot actively carry the work of the abuser, like Youtube does. Curate all your content or shut down I say.

The topic of grotesquely inappropriate kids videos on YouTube (aka "Elsagate" videos) comes up on HN and offline every so often. I've noticed that people's opinions on it tend to fall into one or two categories: they either get self-righteous about how their child doesn't have to see them because of their supreme parenting skills, or they start waxing philosophical about the limits of AI or importance of human curation in online communities or something like that.

What's missed in these discussions is the pure oddness of these videos. And I don't mean odd as in quirky and funny. I mean odd as in uncategorized - meaning that there's no conceivable way for some of these videos to emerge logically as a function of society. And the sheer effort put into them and endless variety seems to imply some sort of underground economy or industry behind them.

A lot of children's media is edgy and experimental in ways that adults deem inappropriate, and it's been that way for decades. Remember Ren and Stimpy? There's a lot in that that would make today's parents really uncomfortable. And nowadays, kids' movies (like Shrek) will usually have some inappropriate humor encoded in it to keep the adults happy. But it's all just entertainment and the themes are all familiar. You can kind of imagine how it played out. The writer of a kids' show had a slightly-edgier-than-usual idea for a gag and thought it would fly under the company's radar, and happened to be right that time.

Maybe I'm just naive about the state of video technology or the depravity of ordinary people, but I can't possibly imagine the type of mind that dreams this stuff up or the company that provides the resources and manpower for such a project. I get that they're done to farm clicks from 2-year-olds, but that doesn't explain the content of the videos. Stuff like Elsa becoming pregnant and receiving an abortion via Spiderman injecting her with a giant hypodermic needle, or Minnie Mouse blacking out after her friend spikes her cocktail with pills and waking up chained to a bed? The cruelty and inhumanity depicted in these videos using children's characters go way, way beyond the realm of goofy pranks and immature comedy. They indicate an intimate familiarity with the criminal world.

Elephant in the room being that peppa pig is not a copyright free content...

There is no risk at all to put your kid in front of a peppa pig list of episodes on Netflix or another legal video plateform.

But YouTube can’t efficiently curate or filter content like peppa pig because it’s not legal and the only appropriate action following law would be removal.

And that’s their main problem they actually needs illegal kids cartoon to be posted because it’s what people that put kid in front of YouTube are seeking. And Alphabet have paying customers that ask to place their ads in front of kids...

Peppa Pig and other cartoons have official channels with free episodes on YouTube.

One of the greatest successes of companies like Google is transferring all of the negative externalities of their systems onto the public using some fiction about technology “going awry” of its own accord.

I don't see why Youtube doesn't just start charging per-upload to fund the human review process.

I understand that at the beginning it makes sense to make uploads free to gain market share, but now they've reached monopoly so that's no longer needed.

Charging something like $1 for uploads would allow to pay human reviewers, would cut down on mis-labeled content (since humans are reviewing) and inappropriate/advertiser-unfriendly content (since the creators would be reluctant to pay if they know it'll most likely get rejected, and if they try anyway the human would catch it). $1 is also affordable enough not to hinder legitimate usage. Seems like a win to me.

They say 400 hrs/min of uploads is too much to police. But not too much to find the most profitable ad to run on it. That is why YouTube are clearly turning a blind eye.

For general YouTube? Sure. For the advertised as curated and safe YouTube Kids? Absolutely not. There is zero excuse for not having a human vetting what they show on there.

Who’s making these weird videos? Has anyone taken credit?

I never though of this question before, so I went down the rabbit hole to find the answer.

I started by checking the ownership of the videos on YouTube (through Content ID). All recent videos are claimed by emails on a domain entonegroup.com. The domain itself yields nothing as it's registered with an extra privacy option.

However the email leads to a lady that works for Entertainment One that also advertises [0] the ownership of the content.

I also checked the earliest videos of Peppa and it seems like they were produced by a different individuals, which would suggest that, at least this show, was acquired by Entertainment One.

[0] https://www.entertainmentone.com/

Entertainment One owns Peppa Pig[1]. It's likely that Content ID thinks Elsagate is legitimate Peppa videos.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_One

Just to verify, are you talking about the _real_ Peppa Pig videos, or the fake, weird ones?

Because as far as I can gather using Wikipedia, Entertainment One is the company behind the _real_ Peppa Pig. If you're saying that there is also reason to believe that they are behind the _fake_ Peppa Pig, that would be much larger news, which (looking at the amount of interest in the story), it isn't.

Edit: Ah, mFixman suggests a plausible explanation:

> Entertainment One owns Peppa Pig[1]. It's likely that Content ID thinks Elsagate is legitimate Peppa videos.

> [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_One

That makes more sense :)

Your [0] link 404s for me.

I changed it back to the home page. I grabbed the link from their homepage where you can see Peppa Pig, but it doesn't seem to be working directly.

here's a working one, they aren't hiding it https://www.entertainmentone.com/home/EN/peppa-pig

This also 404s; like the sibling comment says, it works from the homepage but not if you try to go to it directly.

You'll land on the correct page if you add a trailing slash: https://www.entertainmentone.com/home/EN/peppa-pig/

But from the home page you're redirected to an URL without the trailing slash that doesn't work when copied and pasted.

Same people making Chumboxes.

Unpopular opinion: pay for the content you want and know that it is what it is, either iTunes, Kindle free time, etc.

Another unpopular opinion: Parents should not let their children watch something that they have not themselves watched and approved.

Edit: This isn't smugness. Do you think it's also smug to not run untrusted binaries? To not copy-and-paste from Stack Overflow into production? To say "thank you," or "yes, I've got it," when taking a blade from somebody else? To not run with scissors is my opinion, not because of smugness, but because I care about safety.

Kids shows are pretty inane. Sesame Street (and Spongebob, if you can stand it) at least throw bones to the adult audience every now and then, but there's nothing in an episode of PJ Masks to keep me engaged.

That said, parents that unleash their kids on YouTube make about as much sense as encouraging them to go play in a dumpster. Its all fun and games until the obscenity surfaces and the feedback loop begins.


What you just said is like saying: ""Brush your teeth" is a bad advice when you already have cavities". "Don't do X" is not ignoring the problem, it's literally the only way to avoid Y negative effect caused by X.

Absolutely, agree with you. And it should apply to adult entertainment too.

When first I got Kindle, I really loved reading random books for free (Amazon Prime books). But then it got so much noise that now I can pretty much guarantee that if a book is available for free, it is worthless. My new rule is if I am not willing to pay for a book, I am not going to waste my time reading it.

"I can pretty much guarantee that if a book is available for free, it is worthless."

That is so, so false. There are many wonderful, amazing books on Project Gutenberg and Librivox, and they're all absolutely free.

Sure, they're far outnumbered by garbage, but that's true even of books you have to pay for at other sites.

You have to know how to look. Find reviews and recommendations (those do exist for free, public domain books). Especially with older books, word eventually gets around which are the "classics", and those usually have a pretty good chance of being worth reading, possibly even of being great. With experience you get a sense for which kinds of books you tend to like so can have a good chance of spotting an interesting book just from reading a synopsis or sometimes even just a title.

Ok I am sorry, I overly-generalized. Yes, there are many free books which are great. My initial Kindle paid for itself when I read 10s of free classics.

The problem is that even paid books can be horrible.

I am a subscriber to Bookbub list which sends out e-mails to daily Amazon sales (0.00 to 1.99) on e-books of your chosen category.

Quality wise it does not seem to matter on the price.

As a parent in the IT world for the past 15yrs (with a background in networks, servers, etc) I find it difficult to reasonably block YouTube from my pre-teen kids. I can delete from their devices, I can set parental controls, etc but somehow they were always able to find some kind of way to watch it. I finally had to tie all smart TVs and devices to a local dns server in my home and filter all in/out traffic as a last resort. Most parents don’t have the slightest clue how to do something like this and I see my kids friends with pretty much open access to the internet and YouTube and it’s very disconcerting.. plus I’ve seen some of the “kid friendly” crap on YouTube, like catching my kids watching adults giving product reviews of toys (basically marketing to them about why they would want the toy) that is marked as kid safe. It’s hours and hours of let’s look at this toy, let’s talk about what it does and why you “need” it. It’s utterly absurd and a form of predatory marketing. I know there are some positive things about YouTube like when I can lookup a quick instructional video on how to do something but in whole, I’d rather see YouTube just completely shutdown.

Shutdown for who? I don’t think anyone wants to see YouTube actually go away entirely. I agree that better filtering of advertising to kids is needed though.

Human curation / whitelist is the answer but Google being human averse is not going to pay for that and keep hoping for AI answer.

I remember there was a second party website of human curated youtube videos for kids some 4-5 years ago, Kideos .

It worked really well at the time (for my first kid) but site seems to be broken now.

Maybe this is just how the economy will work in the future. Paying for curated content - even just selections of free content. It's not a bad model at all.

>Whether these videos are deliberately malicious, “merely” trolling, or the emergent effect of complex systems, isn’t the point.

That's an extraordinarily naive statement and it's baffling that the author even questions the obvious intent and, worse, reaches the conclusion that intent isn't important here. He then goes on to say the problem is with the platforms, algorithms, etc. While these have their issues, I think he overweights them by a good bit, and they are secondary to this particular subject. That is, if the algorithms weren't being abused, then they would be just fine for their intended purpose. The problem here is that the content they are working on is problematic to say the least.

Specifically, someone is clearly and deliberately targeting children with disturbing videos that promote extreme violence associated with themes and characters they think to benevolent and loving. He then completely acknowledges this in the following nugget:

>Previously happy and well-adjusted children became frightened of the dark, prone to fits of crying, or displayed violent behaviour and talked about self-harm – all classic symptoms of abuse.

So, the harm is specific and clear. How can he then dismiss this as possible happenstance of secondary importance? We also live in a culture where people are being radicalized online and children are now being murdered in schools en masse, frequently by other (slightly older) children. Does the author not see a thread here?

Now, broaden the context further to consider the armies of troll-bots, etc. on our platforms that we know are being weaponized against us to incite anger, division, etc. There can be no other conclusion except that we are under a sustained attack to divide and destroy our society, and now children are being included on the target list.

This is not some randomly generated content to game platform algorithms for ad revenue that just happens to be disturbing. It is specifically effective in damaging children and is rooted in a very particular line of psychological attack.

Decent job of pointing out that many similar problems exist in different areas. They could also have mentioned Microsoft's attempt at a self-teaching chatbot that went full fascist in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Much of it illustrates how surprisingly difficult it is to get algorithms to replace human judgement, and how easy it is to think you've done it when you haven't. We look at instances of humans making poor judgements and tend to think , "an algorithm could improve on that". It turns out, human judgement does better than you think, compared to the task of automating that in an algorithm. Self-driving cars, I am looking at you.

Having watched a few of these videos, it's not that they have a message but they're a contentless stream of semi-dramatic events (of the events violent). Something that would only entertain a 2 year old. But naturally they are aim at 2 years olds (or there-abouts).

This is also a natural result of parents using video as a baby-sitter for kids too young to really have any judgment of their own. So we have parent who won't exercise judgment, kids who can't and youtube which is expected to do so.

This goes naturally with the recent item about large corporations discriminating against pregnant women. If society isn't offering parents any extra time to take care of their kids, parents fall back in automated methods. We're finding downsides to such automation but that doesn't stop it, given that society isn't offering any time for alternatives.

No, humans don't do better. What you probably mean is you're personally good at applying your own judgement that's arbitrarily based on your own culture and experiences regardless of whether that's good or bad. But would you trust all other humans with that task? Isis was composed of humans but they taught schoolchildren to kill people. I grew being read the bible at school and had to hear stories about entrails being spilled on the ground, hands being cut off, and a father attempting to murder his son in a fit of mental illness. Humans told me those stories. These complaints are just parents being parents and hunting for anything to worry about for their children. The anecdotes about being afraid of the dark, crying and violence obviously cannot be attributed to some particular thing they watched. Even scientists can't work out the causes of child behavior with much reliability.

"Isis was composed of humans..." yes, but it was in the news because it was very unusual behavior for humans. Far more nations are _not_ in a civil war right now than are; we don't hear about them. Car wrecks are horrible, but the vast, vast majority of human-driven cars reach their destination safely. We think humans have bad judgement because it's not news when they do things right, which they mostly do.

Isis was an extreme example, I agree. There are more common ones though. Would you prefer to leave your kid unattended on Youtube or supervised online by a random adult chosen from anywhere in the world? Most of those random adults will include people from countries where attitudes to violence are different. Most of them will have some weird religious belief that will involve involve threats of violence against the child for breaking the arbitrary rules of the religion. Most of them will be homophobic and most of them will be racist. Many of them will support killing members of their enemy groups such as the neighboring country, other religion, other race, criminals, etc. Some will encourage the kid to kill insect pests while others will punish them for doing that. Many of them won't have the patience to talk to the child, which is important for their intellectual development but boring for adults. Many of them will just be bad at caring for children.

>Previously happy and well-adjusted children became frightened of the dark, prone to fits of crying, or displayed violent behaviour and talked about self-harm

I'm all for keeping kids away from mature content, and I think parents should monitor their children online. . . but I thought kids were more resilient than this. I don't have kids, but it's hard for me to imagine them displaying violence and self harm because of some disturbing video.

You’re just underestimating how disturbing these are, even for adults. Violence, rape, cannibalism, gore, in the creepiest form possible, involving either your favourite cartoon characters or adults dressed in ragged Spider-Man costumes.

EDIT: a few samples here https://www.reddit.com/r/ElsaGate/comments/6o6baf/what_is_el...

Lego Universe from memory had "content moderators" constantly looking at the world players created to remove inappropriate content (as LEGO is aimed at children), https://www.geek.com/games/penis-detection-derailed-the-lego... which caused it in the end to be shutdown

It's weird that the creators of these videos haven't been found yet, at least the live-action actors should have been doxxed by now.

Not too much of a conspiracy theorist, but what are the chances that part of this is organized by Chinese, North Korean or Russian government agencies?

The incentives are there - disrupt one of the West's biggest platforms, cause social upheaval - and with just a bit of funding an effort like this could go a long way.

Is this option not being considered and investigated?

Right, because every single problem people face nowadays is coming from the outside, from "these evil countries".

Have you read the article and studied the issue at large, or are you just here to contribute your snark?

There is good evidence that a lot of this content is produced in China. My question is whether this is state-endorsed.

An oddity of the current day and age is that people let children on a service like YT without supervision.

As a child, my parents vetted anything I watched that was not a broadcast children's TV show. Adult themes and violence were filtered until an age that was considered safe.

This was also a time when the TV schedule could be known in advance. There was no on-demand anything - pre-VCR. I can't imagine handing a child the loaded gun of the internet and letting them point it at their developing heads.

People let kids on YouTube Kids, not regular YT, which is already a parental controlled video library. Some inappropriate content slips through the gaps, but YT has just started a new initiative where a Google/YT employee goes through and whitelists all the videos called "Approved Content."

Therefore it is absolutely akin to your parents letting you watch broadcast children's TV shows, you're just trusting Google employees instead of TV network executive, and giving children more control over the order they watch content.

Most of my coworkers work two shifts, most of them got a second job when they realized that it was impossible to raise their children with their previous income. At some moments they are so tired that they relegate child rearing to technology, none of them chose that willingly.

I argue that having children is 100% a conscious decision (well, unprotected sex is) and if you can’t afford to actually raise your children, you are not in a position to have them. Seriously, why does nobody do the math and make a budget BEFORE having children? I know the answer: lots of babies are accidents and abortion is still seen as wrong by a lot of people. If you don’t have the means to raise children (financially or time-wise), don’t have them.

Some people don't live in countries where abortion is legal, as it's the case for my friends. It's also important to know the huge influence of culture and peer pressure on having kids. I got physically upset when I went to parties with friends and couples were told non-stop that they needed to have kids, "it's wonderful", "I didn't know what it meant to be a woman before then", "your biological clock is ticking", and of course there's peer pressure back at home as moms tell their children that "they need grandchildren", "soon they will be too old to help with raising them".

Ignoring that pressure sometimes means alienation in most social occasions as your friends and siblings only have interest in "parents talk" that you cannot engage in.

So, YouTube can quickly and efficiently get entire movies removed for copyright violation, thus protecting the almighty profit margin of BigCo, but is incapable of safeguarding our kids.



Easy, because it's actually BigCo paying for someone to ask for that removal.

But parents likely ask too. The previous article on this topic asked.

Asking doesn't appear, per se, to be the explanation.

I didn't mean asking for a solution, I meant, more specifically, "asking" (really demanding) that certain videos be taken down, such as with a DMCA takedown request.

Are you saying that Youtube has spent their own resources to make it easier for BigCo, beyond that legal obligation?

I am more suggesting that this is a fundamental problem in the world where we have "might makes right" rather than "might for right."

People can exist without companies. Companies cannot exist without people. Companies should serve people, not the other way around.

Something has gone very wrong that it works this way. Given that people created these companies, people run these companies, people created the laws and court system used to justify this shit and on and on... Somewhere, we lost our way and forgot that all of these things should serve the common good for humanity. These systems became bastardized and we sit around lamenting that this is just how it is and we are too powerless to stop it.

We have become the slaves of things we invented to serve us and we loudly proclaim that this is the new natural order and there is nothing to be done about it.

This is pretty big departure from your original comment. (Which was, I believe, supposed to be something of a rhetorical question, but my reply was to point out that it missed its mark.)

> this is a fundamental problem in the world

Although I agree with your sentiment regarding the corruption of systems, I don't believe merely calling out the problem, especially reducing it to the fundamentals, is helpful.

> Somewhere, we lost our way and forgot that all of these things should serve the common good for humanity.

This implies that (at least modern, Western) society evolved from some kind of kinder, gentler, common-benefit civilization in the past. That's inconsistent with my understanding of history, wherein people behaved toward each other in many ways that are reprehensible.

> we sit around lamenting that this is just how it is and we are too powerless to stop it.

> we loudly proclaim that this is the new natural order and there is nothing to be done about it.

These are either straw-men or self-deprecation (since you were the one who used the shruggie originally).

If you want to discuss how best to change the situation, then I would suggest at least proposing what can be done about it. If you merely want to complain, then I would suggest a different forum.

To my mind, it's not a big departure from my original comment. But your stance seems fundamentally dismissive, so I think I'm done here.

> To my mind, it's not a big departure from my original comment.

Fair enough, perhaps "expansion" would have been a better word than "departure".

> But your stance seems fundamentally dismissive, so I think I'm done here.

To my mind, I'm trying to be responsive and evoke thought-provoking conversation. In this case, I hoped I could get you to share what you think could be done to improve the broken system, but I failed.

There are better ways to do that than to suggest I'm in the wrong forum, I don't belong here and take it elsewhere.

I'm a woman in an overwhelmingly male forum. It's a big problem for me to try to find a reply in the face of that.

You may not have any idea. And it doesn't matter. It could have been someone LGBTQ or a person of color or any number of other reasons for feeling they don't really belong and aren't really welcome. Most people won't tell you their reason for feeling fundamentally unwelcome, but a fairly high percentage of people will feel that way.

I'm not at my best today. Maybe under other circumstances I would have been more able to rise to the occasion. So it's also not intended to simply blame you either. I'm muddling through as best I can, as usual.

> There are better ways to do that than to suggest I'm in the wrong forum, I don't belong here and take it elsewhere.

I realize that part of what I said could be construed that way, and I apologize.

I do try very hard not be ad-hominem and avoid talk about the commenter, in favor of talking about the comment itself.

So, to be clear, I was making no statement about you not belonging here. Rather, I was saying (and only after actually asking for the kind of content/information I was hoping for) that this isn't the best forum for illustrating a problem without an accompanying suggested solution.

I do still hope to read your thoughts on making the system less corrupt.

I don't agree with some of your assertions about the world having always been terrible.

The US was founded by a bunch of small businesses owners, basically. Social stuff fundamentally works different in smaller groups than in very large ones. That doesn't mean nothing bad ever happens in small groups. It means that part of the problem is we have 7 billion people and a bunch of huge corporations.

I had a corporate job for a time. I've done freelance work in recent years. I did that while homeless and eventually got off the street.

I'm trying to establish a pilot program for helping others also learn to make money online while homeless. I'm also doing little websites for local artists in a low cost rural area with a bunch of small towns. I'm in the biggest city locally and it's under 20k people.

So I'm personally trying to foster microenterprise as part of the solution to what has gone wrong. We need more small time operators.

Another thing I do is participate as openly female on HN. I think that has more impact than is ever likely to be acknowledged by anyone.

I tried once to do an AMA about it on Reddit. I was politely told to go pick myself, that didn't measure up to their standards of significance for AMAs and directed me to a second rate AMA forum.

And yet in the past year, a lot of things I have been saying on HN for nearly 9 years are suddenly being parroted in various "movements" or whatever.

I don't expect to ever get any credit whatsoever for any of that. I'm old and tired and grumpy and impatient with people being dismissive of me and yadda. But I'm quite confident I'm making a difference.

There's other stuff I do. I wouldn't know how to explain it all and I'm not inclined to try in part because your earlier comment was incredibly dismissive and not just of me personally, and in part because I routinely get dismissed by people saying "No, you didn't actually do X. You are deluded."

It's probably dumb of me to say this much. But I'm human and part of the secret of my success is my willingness to flail about and look the fool in public.

Hopefully we are deep enough in the weeds at this point that there won't be too many eyes on it anyway.

> So I'm personally trying to foster microenterprise as part of the solution to what has gone wrong. We need more small time operators.

I agree, and I've always preferred smaller companies to larger ones. Unfortunately, I didn't always know that about myself. There's likely more I don't know that I "should".

In tech, and especially on here, there's a strong bias for the VC-funded growth-at-all costs business model. That of course, leads quickly to large organization.

Fortunately, there are people who post here that support small businesses that stay small and share their experiences.

> And yet in the past year, a lot of things I have been saying on HN for nearly 9 years are suddenly being parroted in various "movements" or whatever.

I'd consider that as an encouraging sign, if not success. Someone is getting the message (if not directly from you)!

> There's other stuff I do. I wouldn't know how to explain it all

You shouldn't even have to. Just doing it is enough.

What I would hope you do on here is suggest what believe other people need to do to help and, more importantly, the mechanism by which it will help.

> I routinely get dismissed by people saying "No, you didn't actually do X. You are deluded."

If someone posts an ad-hominem attack like that, I do urge you to flag it. Even a "shallow" dismissal, with no explanation or reasoning, like even just the first sentence of the above quote could be worthy of a flag. The moderators here are pretty good about keeping a lid on that sort of thing.

On the other hand, I also urge you not to take personally a disagreement, attack, or even a dismissal (with reasoning behind it) of your statement.

There are a finite number of known movies. There are an infinite number of "bad" videos that could be created. It's easy to come up with an automated system to identify the former, orders of magnitude harder to create one to identify the latter.

Not to mention there's also an infinite number of benign videos that could be created, and you need the automated system to correctly identify between all three for most of the time, otherwise one group or another is going to get mad at you.

Ready to be downvoted to hell, but I’d rather not force feed by kids with hours of unsupervised video. Any video at all

This is one of the great things about youtube, that alongside Disney videos you have home made videos. But it doesn't work for kids. Should youtube change? Or parents reliance upon it.

People of ElsaGate tracking and report these videos: https://reddit.com/r/ElsaGate

Youtube could solve this whole problem by letting people simply whitelist the channels they want to be viewed and blacklist everything else.

The root cause of this problem is that YouTube does not offer a whitelist only option for parents.

I think YouTube needs to be censored and filtered until it resembles the evening news where you can see concerned politicians rescuing you from attack and justifying the stuff that creates division, destabilisation and refugees. Edit: and police shootings

One thing to think about is that its called a TV-program. Just like a Computer program a TV program is a content that can change the mind. Young brains do not have filters of what is good and bad.

why isn't there kids.youtube.com ?

why youtube kids must app-only ?


The introduction of the article says:

> James Bridle’s essay on disturbing YouTube content aimed at children went viral last year.

The first paragraph includes a link to an article from that time.

The point of the article is “has Google done anything about it since last year?”.

The YouTube problem is solved very easily: use the firewall to shitcan the whole site. Require mandatory VPN through same firewall for all mobile devices. Done. At the very least, my child never gets to see any of this crap.

Sure, but the bigger problem is that Google makes an app targeted at kids (“YouTube Kids”) which is supposed to only show age appropriate material.

It’s a huge problem that Google is just blaming on “algorithms”. Meanwhile little 2 year old Johnny gets to see Peppa Pig killed in a variety of ways.

It’s not only the overt violence either. There’s some really weird sort of cult programming stuff that slips past the filter because they put it at the very end of an otherwise normal clip.

But yeah, just delete it. Plenty of quality apps for kids.

I was watching videos from the last CppCon and kept getting Peppa Pig recommendations as the next thing to watch. There is definitely something weird going on and YouTube must be complicit.

Imagine the inverse was true. Some kid happily watching Peppa Pig then, suddenly, a nightmarish video of someone debugging a project that liberally uses deeply-nested templates

Finally something that traumatizes me, as much as my children.

In all seriousness though, my daughters moved into the same room for about a month in response to the 'Killer Clown' (pennywise etc.) stories that were doing the rounds in their elementary school.

And just to emphasize how scary stories and TV can be, I'm only now getting over my deep unease whenever I think of the scarier parts of City of Death, and Sapphire and Steel.

It’s fascinating how differently different people react to any given content. Myself, I found The Taming Of The Shrew to be appalling, but not as appalling as the fact everyone else in the audience was laughing to it.

Likewise BDSM. Some friends of mine invited me into forums about it for dating, and I found I could not distinguish what I saw from actual abuse — I instead need to rely on the fact that I knew some of the people and they told me they had enjoyed what was done to them.

It’s like The Dress, I suppose, only disturbing/fine instead of black and blue or white and gold.

This is just the usual internet trolling that occurs everywhere. There's probably campaigns on various forums (e.g. 4chan) to see how many of these videos can be snuck through the filters. I'm actually surprised that Google has done as good of a job to moderate it in their children's app (if their reported 30-day 0.005% flagging rate is correct[0]).

0. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/business/media/youtube-ki...

Don't excuse things as trolling.

It is trolling, and this article is just painting an alarmist narrative.

Google clearly did something about the issue of how to create a filtered experience for children, by creating YouTube Kids. Most of the article is just pointing to "weirdness" in videos on YouTube proper, which should surprise no one.

I've been on 4chan for over a decade now. It isn't 4chan trolling and there's no concerted campaign that I can find on any board. (Do you have a link or other evidence to contradict this? We'd love to see it!)

The investigations that have been carried out so far seem to point to individual small film studios who produce the content because it seems to be an acceptable business model for them, and of course YT's own recommendation algorithms for being unable to distinguish between kid-okay and not-kid-okay content.

I was a 4chan regular from 2006 until 2012 and saw plenty of campaigns like this. For example, there were regular campaigns against Habbo Hotel[0] ("Pools closed", etc), no less a game designed for kids that also struggled with trolling. I used 4chan as an example, but there are countless other forums where this goes on. I don't think I have to explain why a video about killing Micky Mouse (one of the examples from the article) with keywords of "child safe" and "learn colors" is not a form of trolling. What else would it be? That others feel inclined to single out Google over it using a few videos as examples when its endemic of the internet as a whole is silly.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habbo#Habbo_raids

"Google clearly did something about the issue of how to create a filtered experience for children, by creating YouTube Kids."

Which, if you had read the article, or the one that proceeded it, or even used the app at all, you would know it's absolute garbage, and makes the problem worse. Google is not using human curators for YouTube Kids, they are trying to use automation, which is why all these things are in an app for kids.

These videos were appearing on YouTube Kids.

that something may be trolling doesn't validate it.

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